May 16, 2010

Feature: North Carolina Clamps Down On Delaware's Dickson

By Neil Amato
Special to

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-The track meet became a chess match. The stars were neutralized. So with a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals at stake for Delaware and North Carolina, special teams and unheralded players stepped forward for the Tar Heels.

When North Carolina needed a lift, Marcus Holman, or Mark Staines, or Matt Davie was there. They are not the biggest names, but they made a name for themselves, pushing the Tar Heels past the Blue Hens 14-13 in a game every bit as close as the score suggested.

Killing off Delaware's final three extra-man chances, finishing with a perfect clearing percentage and winning 75 percent of the fourth-quarter face offs propelled the Tar Heels (13-2) into next weekend.

On Saturday in Princeton, N.J., fourth-seeded UNC will see a familiar face, No. 5 seed Duke. The Blue Devils ripped Johns Hopkins in the first round 18-5. It's too late to petition the NCAA to play the game in Chapel Hill, just 10 miles down U.S. 15-501 from Duke's campus, but no matter the venue, the Tar Heels are excited about what's next.

"I'm pumped," said Holman, who finished with three goals and an assist. "They're a great team, they're on a roll. We've got a good rivalry going, so we will be ready to play."

Duke indeed is on a roll, having won 11 of its last 12 since a 13-7 home loss to the Tar Heels back in March.

"They're won't be any need for any extra inspiration going into that game," defenseman Michael Jarvis said. "Everybody knows what we have ahead. We're really embracing the opportunity."

Jarvis embraced his opportunity to be the point man against Delaware star Curtis Dickson. And Holman took advantage of his chances as well.

Holman didn't score the winning goal, but he did score a critical one right after UNC negated Delaware's extra man advantage for the first time all game. On the rush up the field, he took a pass from Kevin Piegare and fired past Delaware's Noah Fossner for an 11-10 lead. Though Delaware came back to tie the score, the tone was set.

In UNC's NCAA opener a year ago, standout Billy Bitter scored eight goals in a 15-13 win. On Sunday against Delaware, he did not have a goal on three shots. Holman was one of the guys who stepped in when it mattered.

"We always talk about everybody being ready to play," UNC coach Joe Breschi said. "Different guys have had to play different roles. Over time, that's helped guys be comfortable in a do-or-die situation. It's been critical for us to be able to go to different guys throughout the game to make plays for us."

Delaware (10-7) succeeded in doing that for much of the game, despite getting no goals from Curtis Dickson, the nation's leading scorer. The Blue Hens took full advantage of the penalty-prone Tar Heels, and led 10-9 in the third quarter when Anthony Ruiz scored his career-best fourth goal of the game.

"Two excellent teams went 60 minutes," Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw said. "Both groups definitely (were) spent by the end. I thought it would be up and down, a lot of transition, a lot of crazy plays. Wish we had maybe two more crazy plays tonight." Delaware, which dominated face offs through three quarters, struggled to clear the ball, missing on seven of 21 tries. UNC was 18-for-18, and when Staines took a pass from Cam Wood to score with 4:52 left, it gave the Tar Heels an unlikely hero. He wasn't the only one. Matt Davie was more a practice player a month ago.

"Matt Davie's one of the best stories of the year," Breschi said. "Coming off the scout team three weeks ago and scoring two goals in a playoff game."

The scout teamer outscored the nation's leading scorer. In a game with 10 ties and four lead changes, it was small contributions such as Davie's that helped extend the Tar Heels' season.